History of the railway cargo transport in the Czech Republic

Transport of loads, coal, wood, salt and other minerals, usually between the individual industrial and trade centres, used to be the primary mission of railway transport. In some mines and smelting houses in England, primitive railways were used already in the seventies of the 18th century; the first public railways began to emerge in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. First railways were built as horse-drawn railways. This was the case of the railway running from Ceske Budejovice to Linz (Gmunden). The first wagons with salt started moving on the Bohemian section in 1828; four years later the railway was completed. Another horse-drawn railway, Prague-Lány, was significant in particular due to wood transport – woods from large Křivoklát woods, and also black coal from Kladno mines to Prague. The railway extension from Lány to the Berounka River valley and to Pilsen was unfortunately never completed.

In 1839, first steam train appeared at the first station in our territory, in Breclav. The train arrived there from Vienna (KFNB), going on the North railway line of the Emperor Ferdinand. By the construction of that railway line, the company strived after connecting the metropolis of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with the industrial areas in the north of Moravia and in Silesia. Therefore, the KFNB network grew rapidly, and additionally to the Brno turning (1839), the trains soon reached Přerov (1841), Ostrava and Bohumín (1847). The history of the first international railway line relates to Bohumín – on the 1st of September 1848 the operation of line from Bohumín to Annaberg (Chałupki) commenced forming the connection to the Prussian railway line. The North line of Emperor Ferdinand also provided the operation of so called Montan-Bahn connecting Ostrava with black coal mines at Michálkovice, Orlová, and Doubrava.

The coal was at the commencement of other railway lines. The Usti-Teplice railway lines, Bustehrady railway lines and Brno-Rosice railway lines were built for the coal transport. The first line was built between 1858 – 1870 with the network of lines between Chomutov, Teplice, and Ústím nad Labem, including the connection to the Labe port. The quay siding enabled the export of brown coal into the neighbouring Saxony. Brown coal export from the sub Ore Mountain area to Saxony was provided by company Buštěhrad Railways. The backbone line between Cheb and Chomutov included two, respectively three, turns to international lines over the Ore Mountain ridge heading to Saxony. Considering the incline ratios, we may find it unbelievable as to how many freight coal trains travelled on the lines.

The railway had been developing very dynamically. Not only the numbers of main railway lines were increasing; also the infrastructure were extending by hundreds of kilometres of local railway lines that affected significantly the development of industry and agriculture in areas they ran through. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, no greater capacity means of transport existed than the railway. Back then, only trains were able to provide transport of higher quantity of raw materials for production and ensure cheap transport of finished products. Large companies and also various smaller associations of interested persons focused on the construction of local railway lines, so called locals. Independent companies which based their business on local lines included the Austrian company of local lines (ÖLEG) and Czech Business Lines. The first mentioned company built the lines in the areas with the most significant industrial potential (Čáslav – Třemošnice, including, limestone pits, Královec – Žacléř, coal mines, etc.). Czech Business Lines focused on building the local lines in particular in flatlands of Central and East Bohemia for seasonal transport of agricultural products, mostly sugar beet.

Considering sugar beet, it is necessary to mention another phenomenon of narrow gauge beetroot railways. In 1894, the train travelled on the oldest Kolín line. The latest beetroot line opened in sugar refinery in Libněves in 1925. The operation was provided by steam engines. The length of the beetroot lines in the Labe River basin was approximately from 10 km in case of Rožďalovice (Křinec) up to 25 km in case of Kopidlny line. After the end of WW2 and after nationalisation of the sugar refinery, Kopidlny line was supposed to become a part of narrow gauge network placed between Kopidlno, Křinec, Dymokury, and Vysoké Veselí. The longest Czech beetroot line was Dymokury line built by Orenstein & Koppel, which reached its definite length over 27 km in 1931. Unfortunately, the beetroot lines ceased to exist at the turn of the fifties and sixties of the 20th century. More flexible road freight transport started to take over. Narrow gauge lines found their use in the past in the transport of wood, especially the neighbouring Slovakia or other mineral resources. They were parts of the infrastructure of every larger industrial company.

A significant milestone in the history of railways, and not only in our territory, was the commissioning of a standard-gauge electrified track in the Central Europe in 1903: the local railway line Tabor - Bechyně, a work of Frantisek Křižík, Czech electrical engineer.. Another electrified railway opened in 1911 in Bohemian Forest region and connected the station Rybník with Lipno nad Vltavou. The construction initiators were the abbot of Vyšší Brod Monastry Bruno Pammer and Loučovice industrialist Arnošt Porák. The main reason for the construction was to simplify the wood and paper products’ transport. Electrical traction was the guarantee of low production costs. The line proved its use during the transport of materials for the construction of Lipno dam.

In 1918, the Czechoslovakian Czech Railways (CSD) were established that operated in the territory of the then Czechoslovakia in the years 1918 - 1992, with an interruption between 1939 and 1945 when independent Czech-Moravian Railways (CMD) existed in the Czech territory, and Slovakian Railways (SZ) in the Slovak territory. New independent Czechoslovakia commenced the construction of new lines which would not lead close to the state borders and would not be directly threatened in case of potential army conflict. In particular in Slovakia, beautiful lines were built, such as Veselí nad Moravou – Nové Mesto nad Váhom (1927 – 1929), Handlová – Horná Štubňa (1931), and Červená Skala – Margecany (1936). In the thirties of the 20th century, the electrification was completed on the railway node, including the commencement of new line construction leading outside the Prague centre. In 1936, the construction of modern goods station was completed in Prague Žižkov.

Post-war socialist period included the intense development of mining, industry, and naturally the railway transport. At the East border of former Czechoslovakia, in Čierna nad Tisou, the construction of reloading stations commenced between common and wide gauge. In North Bohemia, many line sections were destroyed due to opencast coal mining. Many new constructions occurred between Chomutov, Most, and Teplice. Extensive electrification of the main railway lines continued. The lines in the North East part of the Republic used electrification with direct current 3 kV, South West lines were supplied with alternate current 25 kV. An interesting act was the installation of remote control between stations in Pilsen and Cheb according tot he Soviet example in 1964. Some main lines were so loaded with the freight transport that passenger trains had to be replaced with buses.

In 1993 when Czechoslovakia split, the company Czech Railways ("Ceske drahy") was set up. The beginning of 1990's brought a number of changes in the railway. The upgrade of the transit corridors was initiated; the then Czech Railways were engaged in a number of innovative projects, such as transport of trucks by the Ro-La system from Lovosice to Dresden.

CD Cargo, a.s. was founded as of December 1, 2007, as a daughter company of Ceske drahy, a.s., upon the investment of a part of the cargo transport of CD, a.s. Thus a new chapter in the history of the cargo railway transport in the Czech Republic began. It is still very varied because during its existence, the new transport provider had to face great economical crisis, resolve the exchange of the vehicle fleet, and the segment of transporting individual vehicle deliveries. New history of the company is written by modern inter-operable engines Siemens Vectron, enabling the implementation of transport to all neighbouring countries and further.


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